Vantage Career Center recently received a Wind Turbine Nacelle Trainer do be used to train students as wind turbine technicians. Adult Education Director Pete Prichard gave a simulation of what the trainer could do on Thursday afternoon. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Vantage Career Center recently received a Wind Turbine Nacelle Trainer do be used to train students as wind turbine technicians. Adult Education Director Pete Prichard gave a simulation of what the trainer could do on Thursday afternoon. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
VAN WERT – Vantage has received its Wind Turbine Nacelle Trainer and hopes to begin using it by the summer to train students enrolled in the adult education program to be wind turbine technicians.

“There’s only a few places in the country [where students can train to be technicians],” said Pete Prichard, director of the Ohio Technical Center at Vantage Career Center. “There’s a couple of wind turbine training programs in Texas, one up in Canton, Michigan. Kalamazoo, Michigan, has a program at their community college, but in terms of actually having a Wind Turbine Nacelle Trainer, I understand we are the first university assistant Ohio partner to buy this in Ohio.”

Offering the program at Vantage would give students the opportunity to learn the trade locally so that they would be able to maintain the wind turbines Van Wert has locally, or even give students the opportunity to move elsewhere to work on the turbines.

“Wind turbine technicians is the number one job growth category for the next 10 years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics,” said Susan Munroe, president and CEO of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce.

Warranties on the turbines are negotiated by the manufacture, but range from two to six years according to APEX Clean Energy Senior Director of Project Development Scott Koziar.

“As time goes on they will need more technicians as they get a little bit older to make sure they are maintained properly,” said Prichard. “In a few years we anticipate them to come to us locally and say, ‘what can you do locally?’ and they’ll take people local. The need is there.”

Prichard noted that the technology for the turbines is continually advancing so the program would keep up with that advancement to ensure technicians are always up-to-date.

“AEP has released some press releases that they are starting to re-brand and focus on renewables and move away from fossils,” said Koizar. “So I think you’re gonna see a large build-out in Ohio coming.”

“We need to be ready, we need to start planning these people ahead of time,” said Sarah Moser, Apex Clean Energy Development Manager. “It’s a training that takes time.”

“One of the things we did right away was we implemented those partnerships with Northwest State to start up our electricity basis so we have a handful of about 30 or 40 students who have already gotten PLC (Program Logic Controller) training, pipe-fitting training, a little bit of welding, and electricity one and two training,” said Prichard. “Those are the skill-sets we already have out in the population.”

Prichard also noted that with the trainer now being at Vantage, science teachers were asked to come from the high school to develop a lesson plan for the high school students to begin educating them on what the Nacelle does. He also noted that the Nacelle is portable.

“All of the students have to take science, so as opposed to having to figure out which lab it goes to, every person will get a little bit of exposure of this in their science class so that gets them thinking,” said Prichard. “We’ll have our diesel students thinking, our industrial maintenance students thinking, our precision machining guys thinking, and our auto mechanics, as well as our nurses in our health careers.”

Adult and high school students will be able to work hands-on with the Nacelle Trainer. Vantage received the $80,000 trainer, which comes with a lifetime warranty, from EDP Renewables for Vantage’s Advanced Energy Academy. It is a scale model of the actual equipment that would be in the tower of a wind turbine. The trainer simulates everything that is inside the wind turbine.

American Wind Energy Association Deputy Director of Community and Online Engagement Anna Luke spoke about the benefits of the wind turbine technician program.

“A wind turbine technician, we say this all the time, is the fastest growing profession in the country; people are always really surprised by that,” said Luke. “They have an incredibly high placement rate – 90 percent and above. If you complete a course, you get a job.”

“Being here is really impressive because as we’ve talked about, there are only a few community colleges or training facilities across the country [that have a Nacelle Trainer] and Van Wert, Ohio, has one, which is a pretty incredible accomplishment for the county and these jobs are so in demand,” continued Luke. “These kids are basically guaranteed jobs once they have completed their training.”

Luke noted that wind energy is the fastest growing energy industry. She stated that currently five percent of energy comes from wind energy and that number is expected to double by 2020.

So far, an instructor has not been designated for the program, but Prichard noted that one option they are looking at is having training done by some of the wind turbine technicians at Van Wert’s very own Blue Creek Find Farm.

“We want to get that technician to be a hands-on trainer,” said Prichard noting that the hands-on experience is important.

The program aims to train four students per class for at around 300 hours on just the Nacelle Trainer. Prichard noted that many more hours would be needed to learn other aspects of the job.